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By Dan Kelly @DanKelly_NBA

CHICAGO (40-33) at BROOKLYN (43-31) 7:00PM ET

“Tonight I’ll sing my songs again

I’ll play the game and pretend

But all my words come back to me 

In shades of mediocrity

Like emptiness in harmony

I need someone to comfort me”

-Homeward Bound, Simon and Garfunkel

STRETCH JOG: With 8 games remaining the Nets are no longer within striking distance of the 3rd seed in the East. They could however tank their way from the 4th seed to the 6th seed and get into the more tender side of the bracket that way. The Nets are presently 2.5 games up on the Bulls. If they lose this game tonight they’ll be 1.5 games up with 7 games to play. The Nets won’t pursue this route but they won’t be too cranky if it happens organically. The chances of that circumstance unfolding are relatively slim. More realistically, the Nets are going to really want to win this game to keep the Bulls in the 6th seed and avoid a first round matchup.

BULLS’ D v. NETS’ 3′S: The Bulls’ defense has “slipped” to 5th overall in the league mostly due to Joakim Noah’s Plantar Fasciitis. Their defensive principles vary from the normal NBA blueprint. Specifically, on Pick and Rolls, the Bulls prefer to force the ball handler to finish the play rather than allow a kick out for a wide open three. The Bulls have allowed the fewest corner 3 point attempts this season by a mile, 259 attempts.(The Pacers are second at 336 attempts.) And when a corner three does get launched it only goes in 35% of the time which is 3% below the league average from that spot. The Nets, however, have attempted the 4th most corner 3′s this season and they’re hitting 39.6% of them.

(NON)CLUTCH STATS: In the last 5 minutes of games in which teams are separated by 5 or fewer points the Bulls are +34 on the season. The Nets are dead even. (The Heat are +124.) In these situations the Nets are shooting a dreadful 37.1% from the floor (26th in the league). In those last 5 minutes the Nets do not perform particularly well in any one area of the game aside from defending the 3 point line where they hold opponents to 25.5% which is 7th in the league. They’re rebounding is bad (26th), Assist Ratio…awful (29th), Defensive Rating…meh (17th), Offensive Rating…bad (19th)…this could be a problem in the playoffs.

DUNK SHOTS: Deron Williams had a dunk shot last night. It was his first as a memeber of the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets’ general lack of dunking has been notable. They have 9 Alley-Oop dunks on the season. Nine! All Season. They are not alone in this boring cellar, the Bulls have only 10 Alley-Oops dunks this season. The Clippers, by comparison, have 136. Here’s a little video of D-Will’s dunk courtesy of the gents at The Brooklyn Game:

BREAKOUT?: MarShon Brooks got the start last night in the absence of both Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. In this rare opportunity all MarSwag did was drop 27 points on 12-16 shooting in addition to 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Everyone knows that Marshon can score. The seven assists are more surprising. But on a night when seemingly everything went down for the Nets (56% from the floor) assists were not terribly hard to come by. That being said, it was a really nice game for MarShon and could give him a helpful boost of confidence heading down the home stretch.

SANS JOE: The Nets have gone 3-2 in Joe Johnson’s absence. The three wins coming against lottery teams and the two losses coming against playoff caliber teams. For the season Johnson has the best Offensive Rating on the Nets’ roster. When he is on the court the Nets score 107.1 points per 100 possessions. When he’s not on the floor the Nets drop all the way down to 99 .7 points per 100 possessions, which would be the 25th ranked offense in the league. Johnson is likely to play tonight after practicing yesterday.

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